The first six days of the first month of the Chinese calendar, the town of Selatpanjang, capital of the Meranti regency, in the Kepulauan Riau (Kepri) province, comes alive with the Water Splashing War tradition. The local Chinese call this tradition Cian Cui, which has become one of Selatpanjang’s main attraction and cultural uniqueness.
Selatpanjang is located in the Malacca Strait, a heavy shipping and trading channel between Malaysia south to Singapore and the large Indonesian island of Sumatra. Selatpanjang is part of the hinterland in the Batam and Tanjung Balai Karimun Free Trade Zone (FTP) that is within the designated Indonesia-Malaysia-Singapore Growth Triangle (IMS-GT).
The Cian Cui tradition is not only celebrated by local Chinese descendents, but include other Selatpanjang residents from the Melayu, Java, Minang and other ethnic groups as well as those from outside Selatpanjang who come and join in. Together they inter-mingle in the festivity and hilarity of Cian Cui which also attracts tourists from other Asian countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and China.
On the first day, Cian Cui starts from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. Already, most of the Selatpanjang inhabitants, along with domestic and international tourists, are embroiled in the festivity of splashing each other with water along the determined 4 kms route from Kartini street, to Imam Bonjol, Ahmad Yani and Diponegoro street. All throw water to each other packed in plastic ice packs. They throw and splash each other using water guns, buckets and scoops, sometimes even using a compressor machine.
This truly looks like a water war when all are soaked by water bombs from becaks, motorcycles, pedestrians or others standing along the roadside. Regardless of race and origin, those who are in the area of the Cian Cui should be prepared to get absolutely soaking wet.
On the fifth day, those of Chinese descent hold an all night prayer at the Hok An Kiong Temple until sunrise on the sixth day or Cu Lak. This is marked by the sound of a gong reverberating from inside the temple, which is then followed by firecrackers and fireworks. In the morning, tables as altars are prepared in front of the temple for prayers.
The celebration then continues with the parade of three gods carried on palanquins that are taken around the Selatpanjang’s other 23 temples. The chief god paraded is Thang Kie, a human being inspired by God’s spirit. The Thang Kie blesses the entire Selatpanjang town and island and is believed to repel misfortune from the town for the coming year. The parade then returns and finishes back at the Hok An Kiong Temple. Hereupon, people disperse and return to the location where the Water War of Selatpanjang is ongoing.
As an annual agenda of Selatpanjang, Cian Cui is well known within Indonesia and abroad. Many domestic and international tourists from Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the United States travel to Selatpanjang every year just to take part in the Cian Cui tradition. Therefore, the local government has increased the necessary facilities to accommodate the increasing number of visitors.
To get to Selatpanjang there are regular speedboats from Pekanbaru, Batam, Bintan, and other cities in the Riau Islands to Selatpanjang. From Malaysia and Singapore the trip takes less than five hours. The Tanjung Harapan port is the main entry port for boats to and from Selatpanjang.
Selatpanjang has a number of star hotels and inns. Whereas, for transportation, tourists can use becak or becak motor which are the main transportation inside the town. When in Selatpanjang enjoy its typical food which is Sago Noodle. Selatpanjang is well known as the Sago City, and its sago noodle is popular among the domestic and international tourists. The sago noodle is served with soup or is fried, and is available at many restaurants here.